Friday, August 18, 2017

My Trick Is To Keep Everything By Keeping Nothing

Writers gather a huge miscellany of info - drafts, notes, contracts, plot ideas, pix, reviews, etc; do you have any tricks for keeping it all organized?

I remember a conversation via blog I had with Dietrich and the awesome Sam Wiebe about this. I mentioned how some authors have papers, but I have data. If I write anything down longhand on paper, Post-Its, in grease pencil on the windowsill like John Nash (or Russell Crowe doing his best John Nash,) I'll never look at it again. The cleaning lady will have plenty of good material for her own novel because once I put it on paper it's out of mind. I'd rather take a cake out of the oven halfway through its baking time and put it in my closet. The results would be the same.

Some other tidbits:

A half-hour, and half a burrito ago, I just emailed the editor of an anthology project what is to be my seventh published work of the year.  I've kept multiple windows in at least two browsers filled with tabs of research. The stuff I needed for the short story, and the stuff I came across that I could use later. And strategy guides for whatever video game I'm playing that's too damned hard for someone my age.

I may not use hand-written Post-Its, but the Stickies app in Mac OS X is vital. I may have the word count of an entire novel in there. That helps me keep a lot straight. I write to write, so in the middle of a manuscript for one project, I'll click and dump all my tangential impressions, ideas and inspirations there so I can keep moving. It's how I cast off intellectual weight.

I don't keep my cuts from my work while editing. I know some writers do it, especially when they find a passage that isn't right for that particular piece so they save it for later. Me, if it wasn't good enough then, I lose interest. I have yet to approach a work wishing I hadn't deleted something from some other manuscript. I think it's one of those things like stretching after workouts or focused breathing during childbirth. I have a hunch it doesn't really work, but folks gotta figure out something to say because they see you're in pain.

If you emailed it to me, I still got it, 'cuz Google got it, and, for real, where are they goin'? If I had to print it to sign it and mail it back to you, Google still got it. I really don't like printing. At my funeral, the order of service will be texted to you by the mortician. If you use iMessage, it'll be in rich text format with emojis and whatnot.

I keep my photos where everyone keeps theirs: on my phone until I'm running out of space. Then I look to see who I'm unhappy with so I can delete images of them and make room.

I draft in Storyist, which is linked to Dropbox, which is great for writing productivity. Once I was on set for hours, doing absolutely nothing, so I started a short story project with my phone and it was waiting for me when I got home. So I could do absolutely nothing.

Essentially, I keep it all alive by keeping it all in some sort of active window, be it my phone, my computer, my reader/tablet or my brain. If I haven't looked at it in six months, I put it aside for deletion/tossing. After another month, if I still don't need it, out it goes.

Then a week later, I'll need it.

- d


Unknown said...

I admire your confidence. Without fail I throw away the one thing I'll critically need later, so I lost that confidence long ago. Storyist now, that looks interesting. Never heard of that before!

Lisa Ciarfella said...

Storyist...I'm gonna try it today!
I tried using scrivener, but it was kind of complicated and I need something more simple.
I really like your "six month and out" rule... that's probably just what the doctor ordered!

Thanks so much for this!